By Darla Shelden
The public is invited to attend the Bernadette Martinez Art Show on Friday, July 13, 7 to 10 p.m. hosted by the Beans and Leaves Coffee & Tea Shop, 4015 N Pennsylvania, in Oklahoma City. Martinez will display her Indian and Spanish influenced works at the free event.
Internationally renowned visual artist, Bernadette Martinez, has been showcased in many major museums across the country, including the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, California; the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, New Mexico; The Center for Fine Arts in Miami, Florida; the Mexican Cultural Institute in San Antonio, Texas; the Southwest Museum in Pasadena, California; and the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Arvada, Colorado.
“People ask me, when did you first know you were going to be an artist and I say I had no choice, I just was,” said Martinez. “I was drawing before I could write my name.”
After Martinez turned nine years old, she spent each summer with her Aunt Pearl, who lived in Chicago. There she was introduced to cultural influences like the Chicago Art Institute, the ballet, and the opera. “I was a pretty lucky chick from Oklahoma City,” she said.
In 1984, after practicing respiratory therapy for 12 years, Martinez decided to become a full time artist and pursue the gallery scene in Chicago where she had her first art show.
“When my mother found out that I was no longer working full time she volunteered me to be a site manager for minimum wage at the Latino Agency in Oklahoma City,” said Martinez. “That was where I learned to speak Spanish and also learned to play the accordion. I don’t regret it, as my parents got older I was able to be there with them.”
At that time, the Cesar Chavez School was located in the basement of the Latino Agency. “They came to me and asked if I would teach art, and it became like a therapeutic art class,” said Martinez. “I started working with boys, ranging from 10 to 18 years old, who for whatever reason, drugs, fighting or whatever, had slipped through the public school system. We discussed suicide, drugs and everything that teenagers were concerned with and I would tell them about overcoming obstacles. I told them to stick to their dreams no matter what, especially if they were Latino, which meant they had to work harder. I still tell kids to never ever let obstacles get in their way.”
“Over the years Berny has donated her art for many worthy causes, such as the AIDS Walk, the YWCA Purple Sash, the American Heart Association, Winds House of Oklahoma City and many others,” said her sister Sonja Martinez.
“Berny has donated freely to several AIDS Walk events and her art has always stood out,” said AIDS Walk of Oklahoma City executive director John Greer. “Her work was always an audience favorite when it was time to place a bid. It is an honor to have her art as part of any event! She is a great artist and I will be at the show.”
Martinez attended the first non-toxic printmaking workshop under abstract minimalist oil painter Tom Kirby at the college of Santa Fe. Since then, she has taught many students as well as teachers the art of Chine-Colle and mono-type throughout Oklahoma. Martinez has taught classes in printmaking for the Oklahoma City Downtown Metropolitan Library. She is also a musician who plays the accordion with Anita y Los Viejitos, a traditional Mexican band.
In 1995, she received the Governor’s Art Award and the prestigious “Cityscapes Award” from the mayor for her mural “Protecting our Own,” located at the Riverside Community Center in Oklahoma City.
In 2006, Martinez was commissioned by Roger Harris of the Oklahoma History Center to create a poster for the Oklahoma Centennial Folklife Festival. She has painted murals for the State of Oklahoma Arts Council and the Latino Community Development Agency.
Beans & Leaves owner Australian native Gary Devanney and his wife Charlie actively encourage and promote the local artists community. “Our Artist of the Month will be Bernadette Martinez on July 13,” he said. “We know Bernadette and we’ve seen her work, so we thought it would be a good idea to host a show for her.”
Martinez says, “My last work was my best and the next will be better.”